Towards Theory of Correct Thinking

In the mid-1970s Altshuller started feeling keenly that TRIZ has passed the stage of growth on its S-curve and started searching for a larger paradigm, which would include TRIZ as a part. In the late 1970s he was talking about Theory of Correct Thinking to be such a paradigm. According to him, people generally think incorrectly (which is not synonymous to illogically). One of manifestations of incorrect thinking is inability to solve problems. TRIZ corrects this type of incorrect thinking. But there are other types. Unfortunately he never elaborated which ones. And the idea was gradually forgotten. Over time his interests shifted to Theory of Development of Creative Personality, which eventually has taken the place of such a larger paradigm enveloping TRIZ. But since then I have indeed started encountering examples of incorrect thinking which are not reducible neither to illogical thinking, nor to inability to solve problems, nor to the known logical fallacies.

The most impressive ones I found in "The voyage of a naturalist round the world in HMS Beagle" by Charles Darwin. Robert Fitz Roy, the captain of "Beagle", kidnapped a few natives of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) on his previous voyage to South America several years earlier. He brought them to England, "determining to educate them and instruct them in religion," made them to wear European suit and cultivated in them some habits of an Englishman. The natives, of course, loved all this immensely. But settling them in England was not in Fitz Roy's plans. His intent was to return them back to their tribes in Land of Fire. Why ? Now listen to a strange train of thoughts (or theory if you will) behind this callous act. Fitz Roy (or maybe British Admiralty) was concerned that many ships perish near Land of Fire and that unfriendly aboriginals kill survivors reaching the shore. If there were somebody amongst aboriginals, he thought, who were familiar with England and had affection for it, they might have influenced their tribesmen to spare shipwrecked sailors.

Fitz Roy did not hide from the natives that he wanted their return to Land of Fire but motivated it differently. He convinced them that the goal was to bring English civilization to inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego and that they had to spearhead this mission by setting an example for their tribesmen in following the new way of life. The natives were, of course, happy with the mission and could not wait to reach the native land.

However, when they landed, their tribesmen stripped them of all of their possessions and divided them equally between all tribe's members. Even suits were torn to pieces and everyone got a shred of it. Buttons of suits were also cut off and equally distributed amongst the tribe members.

With all symbols of a civilized life gone, the Fitz Roy's natives could not set an example for their tribesmen in following a new way of life. The first part of his experiment failed badly from the outset. The aboriginals of Tierra del Fuego were doomed to remain backward.

This caused Darwin to come up with the following theory:

"The perfect equality among the individuals composing the Fuegian tribes must for a long time retard their civilization. As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so is it with the races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, the more civilized always have the most artificial governments. For instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when first discovered, were governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at a far higher grade than another branch of the same people, the New Zealanders, who, although benefited by being compelled to turn their attention to agriculture, were republicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any acquired advantage, such as the domesticated animals, it seems scarcely possible that the political state of the country can be improved. At present, even a piece of cloth given to one is torn into shreds and distributed; and no one individual becomes richer than another. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how a chief can arise till there is property of some sort by which he might manifest his superiority and increase his power."

In short, in societies where all people are equal no or little progress is possible. Monarchies are more progress prone than republics. Rich (and powerful) are the driving force behind progress.

In a few days "Beagle" passed by a canoe with aboriginals and Darwin noticed Jemmy Button (one of the Fitz Roy's natives on whom especial hopes were placed because he came to England as a child and absorbed the English culture and language the most) in the canoe. He was now "a thin, haggard savage, with long disordered hair, and naked, except a bit of blanket round his waist." Darwin noticed that Jemmy turned his back to the ship and gave it the following explanation: Jemmy was ashamed by his present state and behavior of his tribesmen. I have a more plausible explanation: he started hating Englishmen for what they did to him. I doubt that he ever influenced his tribesmen to spare shipwrecked sailors near Land of Fire, contrary to Fitz Roy's expectations. Moreover, I found an account confirming my suspicion. In 1859 a group of natives led by Jemmy Button massacred Christian missionaries in Tierra del Fuego. The second part of Fitz Roy's experiment failed badly too.

Theory of Correct Thinking should start with accumulating such examples of incorrect thinking followed by their analysis and working out recommendation of avoiding mistakes. Articles of this issue are devoted to this task.